Most of us can probably agree that as vegans, we have a generally healthier lifestyle than most omnivores. By not eating animal products we have less risk of diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and heart disease. Not to mention, our fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E levels would have a nutritionist grinning from ear to ear.
Unfortunately, a vegan diet can leave us lacking a few key nutrients like iron, fatty acids, Vitamin B12, zinc, and Vitamin D. Some of these low levels can be fixed with a well-balanced, plant-based diet, however with some nutrients, we need a friendly boost from supplements to meet the levels required to run like the machines that we are.
No ones dissing the vegan diet here, in fact, if more people adopted this lifestyle, 8.1 million human deaths could be avoided. Sure, no diet is perfect-but we’re really close if you add in a few nutritional supplements. This is why we’ve devoted our life’s work to formulating supplements vegans need.
In this article we’ll dive into the top three, must-have nutrients and why we think everyone and their vegan mother should take them.
Oh, and we’ll back it up with cold hard facts that you can share with any skeptics. Before we get into all that, let’s first discuss the classic, contentious statement that often causes a heated debate in the vegan community….
Should Vegans Take Supplements?
Whether you are new to the vegan scene or a vegan veteran, you probably have an opinion on whether or not to supplement your diet with additional nutrients. Sure it is theoretically possible to get everything you need from plant sources, but for those of you who don’t want to eat pounds of seaweed each day, there are supplements.
It’s true that while we think you could benefit from various vitamins and supplements, we don’t think all of them are necessary. By eating a balanced diet, you can get most of what your body needs from plant-based foods but there are a few nutrients that you need a boost in, no matter how much hemp seeds you try to consume.
A lack of nutrients can lead to deficiencies. This can cause severe health problems like nerve damage, muscle pain, and weakness, cognitive impairment, blood disorders like anemia, mood swings, mental disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and brain development issues. It may take time for some of these deficiencies to occur, but when the symptoms arise, it’s usually serious and sometimes irreversible.
We suggest a few key supplements to boost your health and ensure you are fueling your body with the necessary nutrients it needs to crush any task at hand. Here’s our take (and science’s) on why vegans should take some--but not all--supplements.
The Three Supplements Vegans Need
Maybe you’re a brand new vegan doing your due diligence...or maybe those invalid anti-vegan remarks from your uncle regarding a ‘nutrient deficient diet’ are getting to you. Either way, by the time you’re done reading this you’ll understand exactly what nutrients you need, why you need them, and how to get it.
Ready to get back in control of your health? Let’s go.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, is produced by the body in response to sunlight. There are five forms of vitamin D, but only two forms are used in the body: Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is commonly found in plant-based foods but is proven to be not as beneficial as Vitamin D3.
You can get a sufficient amount of vitamin D3 from a few sources: UV radiation from the sun (sans sunscreen and long sleeves), lichen extract, dairy products, oily fish, red meat, and eggs. You may have realized that only the first two options were vegan.
Maybe some of you might prefer to stand in the sun for 5-30 minutes twice a week to up your D levels but some of us have obligations during the day. There is an avalanche of factors that affect the UV radiation exposure like weather, type of clothing, environmental factors, season, length of daytime of day---not to mention the risk of skin cancer from standing in the sun without sunscreen, but we’ll leave that door closed for now.
Vitamin D deficiencies are classified as a global epidemic affecting over 1 billion people. Lacking D3, specifically, can exacerbate and lead to serious issues like osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
Here are some symptoms to watch out for if you think you might be lacking or deficient in Vitamin D3: fatigue, bone and muscle pain, depression, hair loss, slow wound healing. Be sure to consult a doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Vitamin D3 is important for your bone and muscle health. Your body requires vitamin D to absorb calcium to promote bone and joint health. It also aids in the cell development process and helps regulate the immune system and the neuromuscular system.
If you’re not keen on eating your weight in maitake mushrooms, a supplement of 2000 IU of vitamin D3 per day is suggested to keep your running body in tip top shape.
2. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient involved in the formation of every cell in the human body. It is simply necessary to keep your circulatory and nervous system functioning properly.
You won’t have a problem getting the required amount of vitamin B12 if you are regularly eating animal products such as beef, poultry, eggs, and dairy but for vegans, you’ll need some help to avoid the risk of heart disease and nerve damage.
Unless you enjoy eating fortified cereal three times a day with an extra large helping of nutritional yeast on the side, popping a B12 supplement proves to be an easier route and a better way of guaranteeing you meet the recommended dose.
We don’t mean to scare you, but for those vegans that don’t supplement, as many as 92% were found to have suboptimal levels of Vitamin B12. Are you part of this statistic?
Symptoms of low B12 levels include extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, impaired vision, depression, cognitive impairment, and blood disorders like anemia. A lack of B12 can cause the body to produce larger red blood cells than normal which don’t function properly when carrying oxygen around the body. B12 is key to keeping your nervous system functioning properly so if you are deficient in B12, especially for some time, serious issues like irreversible nerve damage could occur as a result.
Experts from Examine.com recommend taking 25 - 100 mcg of B12 per day, while over people over fifty could benefit from 100 - 400 mcg per day to avoid damage to the nervous system and prevent anemia. Fortunately, your body will only absorb what it needs.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are long-chain fatty acids, but don’t worry, they are the good kind of fat. There are three kinds of omega-3s: α-linolenic acid (ALA) found in plant oil (think nuts and seeds) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in marine life (think fish and algae).
Omega-3 fatty acids are kind of like the Chuck Norris of nutrients fighting everything from depression and anxiety, to cardiovascular diseases to eye and brain health issues. As a natural inflammatory, doctors all over the world prescribe omega-3 supplements to patients suffering from muscle and joint pain, asthma, allergies, various heart issues, and fatty liver disease. Maybe this is why its a $30 billion industry.
Omega-3 are commonly found in fatty, oily fish as well as vegan sources like flaxseed, hemp seeds, nuts, and plant oils. You might be thinking, if I can just eat my vegan omega-3s why are you suggesting a supplement?
The answer isn’t so simple. These foods also contain omega-6 fatty acids and striking the right ratio between the two is important, for vegans especially. It is often easier to take a supplement than integrate daily tablespoons of seed and oils into your diet.
Also, unless you have a readily available source of algae nearby (to supply you with DHA or EPA) you’ll only be consuming ALA. Although our bodies can convert some ALA to DHA and EPA, the conversion is low. You’ll want to get a source of DHA and EPA because they bring the benefits that support heart, eye, and brain health.
Although a deficiency of Omega-3 is rare, low levels of fatty acids can cause skin problems such as rough, red, or scaly skin, itchy rashes or even cause immune issues. Instead of taking a supplement to avoid symptoms, we take this supplement for its benefits and preventative measures.
Although the FDA doesn’t have an exact guideline, experts suggest anywhere between 0.5 and 2 grams of long-chain omega-3 fat (EPA and DHA) per day.
Bottom line, supplement are an easy-and natural-way to get your daily dose of nutrients, especially for those days when you just want to veg out on Amy’s frozen pizza and watch reruns of The Office.
Tired of Taking Handfuls of Supplements Each Day? We Have a Solution.
At this point, you may be convinced that your body, although a well-oiled machine, could possibly use a supplement, or three--but maybe you’re discouraged by taking handfuls of pills each day.
We understand that choosing the right nutrients for your body can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of research to do: the right brand, source of the ingredients, quality of ingredients, correct dosage, etc.
At Future Kind, we’ve taken all the guesswork out of finding what supplements vegan need. We’ve done all the research and we’re happy to share our solution with you. Let us introduce you to the essential multivitamin for vegans.
A vegan, nutritional supplement, made by vegans, for vegans.
We’ve combined the three supplements above, into an easy to swallow daily supplement. Our daily vitamin has everything you need, and nothing you don’t.
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